Dissecting the 3 Big Arguments for God

Madison Skeptics
Madison Skeptics
Public group

Olive Garden Italian Restaurant

4320 E Towne Blvd · Madison, WI

How to find us

From East Washington Avenue, turn toward East Towne at either Eagan Road or Independence Lane. When you enter the restaurant, ask for the Madison Skeptics dining room.

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God is notoriously invisible and undemonstrative, so how does anyone know that he really exists? Thru the centuries, various Christian apologists have tried to show that, logically, it’s necessary for him to exist, despite the utter absence of evidence. They do so via 3 main arguments. To be polite, we will call them collectively the “Ologicals”, because they really try hard not to be ILlogical. They are:

(1) The Cosmological Argument. This is also known as the argument from universal causation, argument from first cause, or the causal argument. Plato and Aristotle both articulated first-cause arguments, reasoning that all known effects have causes, and those causes were themselves caused by something earlier. Rather than have an infinite regress into the past, they posited that there must be a beginning point, an uncaused first cause. Thomas Aquinas called it the “first mover”: “... this process cannot go on to infinity because there would not be any first mover, nor, because of this fact, anything else in motion, as the succeeding things would not move except because of what [had moved before them]. Therefore it is necessary to go back to some first mover, which is itself moved by nothing — and this all men know as God.”

(2) The Teleological Argument. This is also known as the argument from intelligent design. It’s best known because of the analogy presented by theologian William Paley, in his 1802 Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, in which he described a functioning pocket watch discovered on a beach as prima facie evidence of the existence of a watchmaker. Since the natural world around us shows evidence of design, he reasoned, it too must have a designer, who would have to be extremely powerful.

(3) The Ontological Argument. This was proposed by Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury in his 1078 work Proslogion. He defines God as "a being than which no greater can be conceived", points out that people can form such a concept, and then reasons that such a being that actually exists must be greater than one which has the exact same characteristics but exists only in the imagination.

The Atheist Lounge will consider these one at a time and show how to find the flaws in each. This will occur, as usual, on the last Thursday of the month. Order food and drink at 7 PM, with short presentation starting about 30-45 minutes thereafter, and plenty of open discussion after that.

As we discuss, remember that (A) apologists are forced to resort to this circumstantial word-wrangling because there’s no physical evidence for God; (B) in any existential argument, it’s the person who says “X exists” who has the burden of proof, not the one who says “I doubt it” or “show me”; and (C) even if they were to succeed in showing that a god exists, that’s only a deistic result; it doesn’t necessarily imply the Christian God.